by Matthew Licht
When I drink rum, a rum-antic mood overcomes me. That dark liquid melts me to the core, casts off the invisible ropes that keep me docked in reality. The adventurous woman who lives inside me sets sail. The ship calls at Nigeria, Kenya, Cuba and New Orleans, places I’ve never been. I’m a clairvoyant slave, forced by the master to remain as naked as the truths I predict. It’s stiflingly hot, belowdecks.
I don’t know what would happen if I bought one of those bottles that occasionally go on special sale at the supermarket. I devour their labels: Barbados, Venezuela, Madagascar. I see black men, sweaty and half-drunk. They’ve just finished the sugar cane harvest. They’re lying on the ground, in the shade of spreading baobabs, unconscious. Flamboyant rags drape their muscles.
Some evenings I go to the Cuban bar under the arcade outside the market in town. My friends won’t go there because the area’s full of non-EU citizens and other colored people. When I order a double dose of rum, I feel like a man. I sit outside with the big glass and dream. My knees move away from each other like white sailboats on opposite courses. I watch the men. The liquor transforms Albanians, Romanians and Chechens into Jamaicans, Masai, Mandingo.
With joyful and ferocious yells, they storm the ship on board which I lie chained, blindfolded and gagged, to prevent me from foretelling the all too predictable future. The hold reeks. Death death death! the crazed men chant. Slaughterhouse ax blows, pistol and rifle shots, corpses thrown into the sea, the roar of bull sharks. I tremble when they come below. Free me, I think. Or enslave me all the way. In any case, keep me with you forever.
After they’ve celebrated their grisly victory, the pirates present me the slave ship captain’s saber. He looked like my husband, only bearded and with scars on his snout. They beheaded him with his own weapon. One of the pirates hoists the gory head, eyes agape, tongue protruded in a silent scream. The pirate king says, “All yours. If you like, we’ll teach you how to shrink it. Then he’ll have to watch as we make love.”
I close my eyes, and nod yes. Then I go home.
Matthew Licht writes the weekly bilingual Hotel Kranepool column for Stanza 251.